Jack’s appearance beyond the grave gave Jo a surprising measure of relief. She’d been unprepared for the ceremony—Micah had simply suggested they “poke around”—and to
suddenly find herself standing before the above-ground grave of a boy not much older than her own had come as a shock. She’d stayed out of respect, not wanting to disrupt the proceedings, but it took some concentration to keep herself together. The day was growing hot, the sun creeping steadily overhead, and the insistent chanting seemed to magnify it. Micah told her it was the chant of “All Is Well,” used to correct mistakes.
“Oh come on,” she’d said, “So now you know Navajo?”
He’d shrugged. “It’s an unusual chant for a burial.”
Jo looked at the Mayor, who was looking up at a quick, yellow-headed bird flitting about over the crowd. Jesse had never liked her—one of the people in town she’d been unable to reach—and she was certain the woman’s impression hadn’t been helped by her decision to leave Jack. She’d always been protective of him, almost mothering, though they were nearly the same age. Jo had asked him about this a few times, but Jack had accused her of imagining things. They stood together now, almost touching, her sturdy frame seeming to tether his airy height to the earth.
After the child’s belongings had been burned, the Mayor left along with most of the people gathered, and Jo made her way to Jack, giving the mound of stones a wide berth. Jack’s back was turned; he was looking at the man who’d lost his son. The Aussie sat at the Indian’s feet, silent.
“That must be the dog I saw last night,” Jo said.
Jack turned around and searched her face. She felt suddenly embarrassed for pointing out something so pedestrian, so unnecessary. What if Jack had felt some connection with this burial, some awakening? The white flash of her own hand caught her attention, forcing it down to her feet.
“I told you Rockette knows better.”
She looked back up, thankful but disappointed. She nodded at the smoking pile of clothing and toys.
“Isn’t this terrible?”
When they’d moved into the house where Jack’s father had died, she’d done her best to clean the space up and, without throwing too much away, transform it into a place they could both call home. But Jack had been resistant. He’d hidden behind the practicality of using what remained, but with each thing he refused to let her remove, her conviction grew that his motivations weren’t entirely clear, even to himself. Still, it was only after she came upon a small box of childhood toys that their discussion had come to a head. It was something she thought they should keep—why throw away children’s toys?—while Jack, finally, had found something he wanted gone. He’d told her to bring them out to the incinerator, and when she’d resisted he’d grabbed the box, making to do it himself. Finally she agreed, then took the wooden box around back and hid it under the house. She still summoned this memory whenever feeling guilty about keeping Alex a secret.
“I think we’ve outstayed our welcome,” Micah said. He was looking around protectively, as though there were some sort of threat. Jo hoped there wasn’t, then hoped there was. She looked into Jack’s eyes and thought she saw, for a second, a flash of emotion.
“I’ll help you,” he said.
Jack turned around and started walking toward the road. After her astonishment subsided she began to call after him, but Micah grabbed her arm and told her to let him be.
“Don’t make him explain himself right now,” he said. “He needs to hold onto some kind of control.”
Jo thought about that. It was either incredibly intuitive or straight from a textbook. Still in shock, they watched Jack speak briefly to an Indian, then cross the road and wave to a man directing a cart into his driveway. It was Dex, an ex-Marine who lived north of Arivaca and made belt buckles out of found objects and old pieces of barbed wire. His cart was pulled by an old white horse, and was loaded high with his disassembled booth. It came to a stop for a minute while the two men spoke, then Jack leapt up beside Dex and, at a pace no quicker than a walk, the cart continued on down the drive. When Jo looked back at Micah, she saw that he was crying.
“Sorry,” he said, wiping his face, “I get emotional when a mission goes well. Come on, there’s someone we have to meet.”
They walked farther back from the road, through the encampment, and passed a young woman combing an older woman’s long gray hair with a bright red brush. She pulled it out and up, and the lower strands froze, spanning the dry air underneath like a cobweb. The young woman didn’t look at them, but the older one smiled. Jo wondered how many of the people in the camp were only here to support the believers. An operation this size required an infrastructure. She knew this from her days organizing in the slums of L.A. You needed everything a real community needs, just on a smaller scale.
Food must be cooked, clothes must be made and mended, medical attention has to be at the ready. And then there are the spiritual needs. The emotional needs.
A few hundred yards beyond the edge of camp they came to a small hill topped with small yellow flowers. They walked around the side, and Micah pointed to a tree with very little shade, its nearly bare branches stretching up into the sky like confused roots. It was the only thing there. When they reached it he took a seat, and motioned for Jo to join him.
“Now what?” Jo asked.
“Now we wait.”